Fact: your business needs a website. Fact: making that website is a little daunting. Still, it’s important that potential clients, journalists and investors are able to find your contact information and get an understanding of what you offer. In our “Build a Website Like the Pros” webinar, our COO Gabrielle Raymond McGee spoke with Regine Gilbert, user experience design expert and NYU Tandon School of Engineering assistant professor, about small business websites and how they can best serve their users. What Gilbert shared will help you build an online destination your customers love.
You should definitely DIY.
As scary as that sounds, it’s your best bet, Gilbert advised. You’re the boss, meaning you need to know how to update your site or fix something at a moment’s notice.
Site building novices should start with a drag and drop editor that you can customize with plugins or even code later on. Gilbert recommends Squarespace, Wix and for small shops, Shopify, because they work so well right out of the box. If you don’t have a lot of original photography and you can’t afford to buy images, find free stock images on Unsplash or The Stocks, two resources Gilbert uses.
If you don’t want to DIY, hire help strategically.
If you have the funds to hire a web developer, make your choice carefully. “I always like to see people’s previous work,” Gilbert said. “Can I see the websites that you’ve worked on previously? And can you walk me through the process that you had with that client potentially?” Those targeted questions will help you understand if that particular developer is the right fit for you in terms of their work style and their availability to you. Is this someone who can update your site with last-minute announcements? Or is this someone who you’ll need to schedule meetings with months in advance?
If you have at least tried to build your own website first, you’ll really understand what you need from a developer. That’s another reason that Gilbert urged entrepreneurs to build their own websites.
Ask yourself, “what do my users need?”
The best way to decide what information and functionality your website actually needs is to put yourself in the shoes of someone coming to your site for the first time. That’s how you deliver the best user experience (UX) to your customers. For more on UX, read What Entrepreneurs Need to Know About User Experience.
When thinking about serving your users, make sure you’re including all users. It’s key that your website meets the accessibility standards outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act or your business could find itself in legal trouble. To save yourself the hassle (and the lawsuit), check your site with the WAVE accessibility compliance checker tool, available at webaim.org.
Learn how your customers use your site.
Once you’ve built your website, you’ll want to know how your users find you and how they’re navigating it. Are most coming directly to your homepage from their browsers or are they finding your products and services through search? Are most of them tapping the link in your Instagram bio? Understanding how your customers find you and what content on your site interests them most will help you continue to refine your website and marketing strategies. Google Analytics is a great way to dig into your website’s stats. Check out our toolkit to get started.
Size up the competition.
Get to know how the businesses in your space serve their customers online. Not that it’s ever a good idea to directly rip off your competitors. But taking stock of what others offer may give you ideas about how you can improve your offerings. You may also find there are ways you can really make your website stand out from the others in your space.
Write out the content your site needs, watch this webinar, and then get started!